It doesn’t get much worse than starting a fire in Weed, California — a place with its industry built on the forest that surrounds it. The lumber town nearly burned to the ground last month, when a fire swept across the town of 3,000, destroying 157 buildings — mostly homes. Ronald Beau Marshall has now been taken into custody and set with a $250,000 bail. Local police have charged the 24-year-old Marshall with felony counts of arson to inhabited structures, property, and forest land, reported The Associated Press.
California has been prone to wildfires in the past, and this summer was no exception — with damage exacerbated by arsonists like Ronald Beau. Because of the destruction that the state’s forest fires have wreaked in the past, local authorities aggressively seek out perpetrators like Marshall to send a strong sign to the public about the seriousness of the arson, especially in the heavily wooded state. CalFire Director Kim Pimlott affirmed that they are attempting to prosecute Ronald Beau to the fullest extent of the law.
“As fire danger remains extreme across California, arson puts life, property and natural resources at risk; and we will continue to dedicate as many resources as needed to track down and prosecute those who purposely threaten our state.”
Weed’s residents are no doubt eager to hear the motives behind Marshall’s seemingly random arson attack on the town. Kristine Michelon, who works at the local community college, told the Los Angeles Times that she fears Ronald Beau has permanently scorched the town.
“I just hope everyone decides not to leave a burned-out lot and not come back. I like living here. I don’t want to see it die.”
Marshall’s crime also had a devastating effect on Weed’s local industries. Its largest employer was the town’s local saw mill, which was heavily damaged in the aftermath of Ronald Beau’s crime. The mill was established by Abner Weed more than a century ago, giving the town its name. Saundra Grass, a 31-year-old local, isn’t sure how the town can recover from losing such essential infrastructure.
“The mill is what started Weed… The mill is the reason the town is even here.”
Ronald Beau Marshall’s arson charges aren’t his first run in with the law. His record shows speeding, petty theft, burglary, and receiving or concealing stolen property as well. A date for his trial has not yet been set.
[Images via Flickr and Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office]